day one

WOMAD 2006 reviews

published: Wed 2nd Aug 2006

Friday 28th to Sunday 30th July 2006
Richfield Avenue, Rivermead, Reading, Berkshire, England MAP
£110 incl. camping (early bird £100); Day tickets Friday £35, Saturday £55, Sunday £45
daily capacity: 22500
last updated: Wed 21st Jun 2006

After a night at the Tiny Tea Tent listening to Beck on rotation and drinking Mulled Cider, it was no surprise to find the tent had reached the usual sweat inducing levels far too early. Already the campsite was looking quite full as many had taken up the early entry offer, toilets were still clean and stocked on the morning and the queue for the showers nice and low, the arena opened at 9am so I headed in there for breakfast and bumped into a few old friends. Walking back through the 32 Acre Field kids and adults were having fun in the steam fun fair. A great place to put it and being ‘steam’ meant no loud PA systems drumming up trade. Old school tent Lunched Out Lizards providing a refreshing cup of tea.

The main arena was still quite empty by the time we all had eaten and brought our valuables inside after a night reporting crime to police and sleeping fitfully with attempts made to enter our tents by gangs of thieves. Depressing!

The morning is spent in the children’s blue and red tents with our daughter industrially making things and helping in the construction of figures for the carnival. We then have time for lunch and some chilling before the acts begin. There’s events on in the 32 Acre Field but I’ve not yet adjusted to its presence preferring to sit in the ever moving shade of the white flags in the main arena.

Yerba Buena opened the music on the main stage and their lively music got us all in the mood with their ‘dance funk party’ in full swing. The two lead female vocalists were charismatic and we all got involved with choruses and their highlight was the rather sensual “Two Tongues Are Better Than One.” A great start to the day and the heat was well up as we drank and chatted under blue skies. The main stage had been rotated to the West side of the arena and the sound much improved.

We wandered through the wider access to the nearby Siam Tent for their opening act Salsa Celtica and I was so glad I did. I was rather under whelmed by their performance at Wychwood collaborating with Eliza Carthy and wondered why people had been raving about them. Here though their performance was a dance marathon! Okay so I’m not a big fan of salsa but combined with fiddles and Celtic reels it worked really well, until Eliza turned up to slow the whole thing down again. A foot stomping performance on the whole!

I was about to head back to the main stage for Dimi Mint Abba and her wonderful soulful voice and Saharan tunes but a phone call from new arrivals searching for our camping area had me away eager to say hi and lend them a hand. Meaning I also missed Finnish valkyries Vartttina, who fortunately I’d seen before and by all accounts they were as good as ever. It did however give me an opportunity to see the rather groovy looking Tipi field and re-stock on cans of beer!

I’m back in the main arena in time to see some of Bellowhead, the stage fortunately is more than big enough to hold the twenty plus members and it’s big band folk! They sound good and despite all the instruments, there doesn’t seem to be many instruments not on stage, their sound is tuneful and fun and loud!

Next up a return to the Siam Tent for Soweto’s finest the Mahotella Queens, and I’m so glad I did! They may be ranging in age from 61 to 64, as they remind us at one point but they sure can sing and dance. Putting many youngsters to shame with their energy. Their costumes are bright and so is their music, and their message is important too, touching on the AIDS pandemic in Africa, child rape, escalating gun crime and other social ills blighting Africa. It’s hard hitting stuff mingled with fantastic vocal harmonies and a performance that all who saw these Grandmothers will long remember.

A quick wander around the stalls and a few purchases later, plus all petitions signed for Oxfam and Greenpeace and even a copy of the Big Issue bought and I’m back at the main stage for Los de Abajo and their Mexican grooves. More Latin music, and it’s at this point I realise why there’s lots of housewives dancing (having had lessons) and lots of bemused husbands trying to but clearly didn’t go to the lessons. I read the paper while LdA play but it’s not really my cup of tea. But I get up and dance about occasionally.

Thankfully Gotan Project have much more to offer; they’re as French as they come, the very sound exuding Gallic nuance. With back drop visuals and the occasional foray into dance music and dub beats it’s new and exotic to start off with but after a while the glamour of it diminishes and it makes good background music. More exciting are the Dhol Foundation who are stand ins for The Warsaw Village Band on the Village Stage who have the crowd in a frenzy with Johnny Kalsi leading them all in drum thumping bounce, sweaty!

We return to the flags of the main stage to meet up ready for Salif Keita one of those acts synonymous with WOMAD and a perfect headliner. Wonderful African rhythms by the band surrounding the Mali born singer are pure class. This is WOMAD music to me and tonight in the darkness it’s so warm there’s no need for more than shirt sleeves and it’s wonderful. His voice is so rich and distinct and probably one of the most amazing I’ve ever heard, the performance is captivating. I do miss the large monoliths WOMAD used to have either side of the stage with projections on but this is the only fault I can find in the whole of the first day, it’s been terrific.

Much to my shame the next day we’re under the impression that the night’s entertainment is over and forget to see the beautiful Anoushka Shankar opting instead to sit at the Tiny Tea Tent and drink tea. But I was reliably informed she was brilliant on her sitar and captivating. We’ve also not even managed to sample the Tri-Span Stage yet.

We head back to the tent through the colourful lights of the fun fair and sit out in the campsite drinking wine and visiting the police station to report the night’s crime waves.
review by: Scott Williams

Friday 28th to Sunday 30th July 2006
Richfield Avenue, Rivermead, Reading, Berkshire, England MAP
£110 incl. camping (early bird £100); Day tickets Friday £35, Saturday £55, Sunday £45
daily capacity: 22500
last updated: Wed 21st Jun 2006


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